By Mike Monahan

Lake Land moved closer to its first winning season in four years on Tuesday night.

The Lakers held off a late surge to defeat Lewis & Clark 94-74 at the Laker Fieldhouse.

Ahead by 24 in the first half, the Lakers saw their lead trimmed to nine with 11 minutes left before they countered with an 8-0 run that essentially put the game away.

“Our ball movement is what I liked in the first half,” said Lake Land coach Julian Larry. “We had 12 assists and when you do that in a half it means everyone is sharing the ball and everyone is getting touches, which means the game of basketball is a lot easier. I was impressed with how we managed that. We limited our turnovers and we took quality shots.”

Lake Land also beat Lewis & Clark by 94-87 on Dec. 18. 

The Lakers (15-12) need one more victory to assure themselves of its first winning season since going 17-14 in 2017-18. 

Ahead 17-8, Lake Land went on a 12-0 run ignited by Johnny Close 3-pointer and a dunk by Everett Stubblefield. Stubblefield followed that with a 3-pointer and another basket to make it 27-8 lead. Lake Land continued to build on the lead. Yassin Hussein made a pair of free throws with 6:35 left in the half to put the Lakers ahead 39-15. 

Lewis & Clark closed within nine on three different occasions, including 62-53 after a 3-pointer by AJ Thompson. A basket by Dailliss Cox a 3-pointer by Close, who had five in the game and a three-point play by Anthony Scales made it a 17-point lead. 

“We just started the second half a little slow and so we called a time-out to get the team back together so we could go on another run and push the lead back up to where it is supposed to be,” said Stubblefield. “We played well as a team. Everybody was getting involved and we were moving the ball very well today.”

Lake Land had four players in double digits. Stubblefield, who averages 14 points per game, had a team-high 18. Close had 17, Cox 13, and Kuljuhovic had 10 points. 

“We were pretty balanced today, and it was a good feeling,” said Stubblefield. “I believe that is how we ended up with the win by playing as a team and playing together as a family.”

Larry said opponents’ runs have been a problem this season. 

“In those types of situations it is where we have struggled with teams that have gone on runs,” said Larry. “We have not been able to stop those runs and we have let teams back in the games. I think we are starting to make better decision making in those times. Even me as a coach, I am learning to call a time-out to get us together to learn. I am a new coach and so I am still trying to learn different tactics and scenarios and situations. Our guys handled adversity and we did a very good job.”

Lake Land also won the battle of the boards, 43-31, and held the Trailblazers to 6-of-23 from beyond the three-point line. 

“Defensively, we have to continue to get better each and every game,” said Larry. “Right now with the time of year it is right now there is not very much practice time available. A lot of in-game decisions to in-game preparation that we have to have. We are working on it and trying to get better every game and trying to peak at the right time, which is the region (24) tournament.”

The Lakers play at Southeastern Illinois at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Lewis & Clark314374
Lake Land464894

LAKE LAND: Close 6 0-0 17, Stubblefield 6 2-2 18, Camacho 2 0-1 4, Kuljuhovic 5 0-0 10, Cox 4 5-5 13, Eversole 1 0-0 2, Scales 3 3-3 9, Wermert 3 0-0 8, Neal 2 0-1 4, Wallace 0 2-2 2, Hussein 2 3-3 7, Totals 34 15-17 94

3-point goals: Lake Land 11-19 (.579) (Close 5, Stubblefield 4, Wermert 2), Lewis & Clark 6- 23 (.261) (Shanklin 4, Thompson 1, McCoy 1). Free throws: Lake Land 15-17 (.882), Lewis & Clark 14-21 (.667). Turnovers: Lake Land 12, Lewis & Clark 13. Rebounds: Lake Land 43 (Scales 8), Lewis & Clark 31 (Jaques, McCoy, White 5). Shooting percentages: Lake Land 34-65 .523, Lewis & Clark 27-70 .386.